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It’s so much better to be a total weird-o in a foreign country than it is back home. At home people will secretly (or not so secretly) wonder what’s wrong with you, but when you’re traveling they just chalk it up to cultural difference and move on.

“Oh, she’s American/Hispanic/Japanese/etc…they’re all crazy.”

I’ve always been a late bloomer. I refused to be born until several weeks past my due date, by which time my mother was roughly the size of a humpback whale. Sorry about that, mom.

In elementary school I could read at a high school level but making friends and being girly were way beyond my social capabilities. I felt like other girls knew about all kinds of stuff that I didn’t. Like how to make a perfectly smooth ponytail or what kind of lip gloss tasted the most like strawberries or how to get a boy to be your boyfriend. They talked about all these TV shows I wasn’t allowed to watch and had inside jokes that I didn’t understand.

I was the totally weird girl who just sat by herself with a lumpy ponytail and drew 879 pictures of horses in her notebook.

In high school I probably would have been a wild child if I was cool enough to get invited to any of the parties with beer. By the time I finally got to release my inner party-girl I was in my early 20’s and most of the people my age were already bored of it.

My friends were starting to have serious boyfriends and some were even getting married. Married?! I didn’t even know what I wanted to do next weekend, let alone with the rest of my life. Hell, I’m 32 now and I’m just starting to know what I want to do with my life. I have friends who have popped out 3-4 kids at this point and I still don’t feel anywhere near ready for marriage. My biological clock is either broken or set to really, really slow.

I didn’t even get around to getting anything that resembled a career until I was 27. And we all know how that turned out…

Even as a traveler I feel completely behind the rest of the world. I read all these amazing, inspirational stories about people who fell in love with travel on a high school trip to Thailand. Or backpacking through Europe while taking a gap year right after college. To be traveling internationally (unless you count tiptoeing into Canada & Mexico, which didn’t even require a passport) for the first time in my early 30’s makes me feel, once again, like I’m late to the game.

But…when I’m sitting in a rooftop taverna in Greece, drinking sangria & watching the World Cup, I don’t really give a damn that I’m ‘supposed’ to be married with kids and a successful career and a big house and an ostentatious SUV by now.

Traveling has totally taken the pressure off. I am released from judgment and other peoples’ expectations. In fact, they expect me to be different.

Here, all I have to do is have a good attitude and be willing to learn. Nobody looks at me like I’m a freak because I’m not thumbing through bridal magazines or driving a mini-van full of kids. No one really cares.

Okay, well that’s not entirely true. There was one really old guy in a pub who asked me at least 97 times why I wasn’t married.

“You’re 32?”

“Yes.”

“And not married?”

“Nope, not married.”

“Never been married?”

“Never been married.”

“And you’re 32?”

“Yep.”

“Do you mean 22?”

“Nope, 32.”

“Are you sure, not 22?”

“Definitely sure I’m 32.”

“And not married?”

“Not married.”

“Are those your real teeth?”

“Yep.”

“They’re so white! Are you sure?”

“Thanks! Yes, I’m positive they’re my real teeth.”

“And you’re 32? Not 22?”

“32.”

“And not married?”

….this went on for at least 20 minutes.

I’d still much rather endure this highly amusing line of questioning than the typical, judgy “So, when are we going to see a ring on your finger?” that I get at home. Here my differences are novelties, not shortcomings.

When someone asks “You’ve never had steak & kidney pie?” or “You don’t know what an aubergine is?” it’s said with amusement, not condescension (by the way, aubergine is eggplant).

Every idiosyncrasy I have is just attributed to cultural difference. I don’t clue them in to the fact that I’m weird for an American, too. Here, I’m free to learn and grow at my own pace. No one expects me to have it all together.

Of course I’m a freak – I’m a foreigner.


This post is part of the #SundayTraveler lineup. Check out the other great travel posts in this lineup by visiting here.

SundayTraveler

Author

Mandie

Mandie is a writer, rebel & web design junkie. In her spare time she enjoys drinking wine, traveling & working on her perpetually unfinished novel. She was a nerd before it was cool.

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Comments

  1. bavariansojourn    

    I am an expat so I can completely relate to this! 😀 Does come in handy sometimes though, my best British accent comes in useful sometimes too! 😀

    1. Mandie    

      Right? It’s a handy thing to hide behind on occasion. 🙂

  2. Maha    

    Mandie, brilliant idea you’ve developed AND articulated so elegantly! I’m right there with you.

    I went to the Big Island the first time in my mid-30s (it was seriously like a 3rd world country) and to Europe the first time at 38…eight years divorced, “fixed up” to be permanently child-free, and ready to have my mind blown and to come back changed in body, mind, and spirit. Now, like Paramahansa Yogananda, “I never tire of new faces and strange places.”

    Doesn’t matter where I travel (domestic or international), people absolutely can NOT believe that 1) I’m traveling alone 2) I’m single 3) I’m without children. In my current trip I get over-and-over-and over the “how can you make this road trip alone” theme.

    It’s fun to travel with others. It’s also fun to travel alone and meet others on the road.

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks, Maha!! I know, I never realized what a novelty I was, but somehow it’s so much easier to deal with in a place where people expect you to be different. Thanks for all the support – I really appreciate it! 🙂

  3. Corinne    

    Hilarious! Yes, we get away with a lot being foreigners. I love it!

    1. Mandie    

      Right?? As long as we’re respectful, it’s totally okay to be weird!

  4. frankaboutcroatia    

    Hahaha… love a conversation you had with an old man! When I grew up, I experienced too many things too early, and got bored quickly. Then I discovered travelling, and it gave me a sense of direction or just a sense. I never get bored with that.

    1. Mandie    

      Yes! I also find that I become more accepting I become of myself the more I learn about different cultures and other peoples’ ways of life. 🙂

  5. Marissa    

    Very well written. The conversation with the old man is priceless. Enjoy your time in Greece!

    -Another girl with a lumpy ponytail

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks! We lumpy ponytail girls have to stick together. 😉

  6. Elena    

    I had a pretty same conversation with the owner of a resto in Indonesia. I was together with my boyfriend (but we were not dating yet than) and that man was like:
    – are you married?
    – nope. we are friends.
    – so you came here to marry?
    – no, we are not dating.
    – so you will marry back at home?

    And it went on and on…

    But yeah, being foreign is a nice excuse to be weird 🙂 Totally agree!

    1. Mandie    

      Lol, that’s so great! My host here in Greece is a single guy and people CANNOT understand that we’re just working together. Conversations usually end with “okay, well maybe you’ll get married later.” You have to just laugh, though!

  7. Nancie Lee    

    Very fun post! I can identify so well. I hadn’t thought about it, but you are so correct. What our family and friends sometimes imply is just shrugged off as being a foreigner. Great way to look at it. I need to get out of the country soon! haha Thanks for sharing! #SundayTraveler

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks, Nancie! Yes, I think it’s always fun and refreshing to see ourselves from a different perspective, which can be tough to do at home. 🙂

  8. Brianna    

    You seem like my sista from anotha mista. While I’ve had the marraige thing locked down for quite some time. The no children thing really spins some heads.

  9. Mom    

    To be technically correct you were 16 very long days past your bloomin due date!! Also clarifying that you never got any of those questions about a ring on you finger, etc. from your mother who lived roughly the size of a humpback whale for those 16 long days! 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      Haha, very true, mom!! I should have mentioned that my family is totally okay with my weirdness! Most of those judgy questions come from well-meaning people who probably don’t realize how rude they’re being.

  10. Anna | slightly astray    

    I love this post! I love that it’s totally OK to be weird as a traveler too. I was actually just thinking that other day that I’m more stupid now that I’m traveling and no longer working. But then I realized I’m NOT more stupid.. I’m just expressing myself and all my weirdness more freely now!

    1. Mandie    

      Yes! Embracing our weirdness is always a good thing! Haha

  11. Michele {Malaysian Meanders)    

    You are so funny. I like the little detour the conversation took from your age/marital status to your teeth. I’m an expat, too. Everyone thinks I’m a local, though, so I still come off as weird.

    1. Mandie    

      That conversation was so random. 🙂 And I guess blending in with the locals can actually have its downsides! Lol

  12. Adelina    

    Brilliantly written post and I definitely can relate. I was born at the end of the year and I always felt so much younger than everyone in my class growing up. Now, I’m getting to the age where people are starting to question when I’m going to settle down. I have a boyfriend, but he lives thousands of miles away. I have friends getting married, popping out kids and I look at them and while a small tiny bit of me wants that, most of me still wants to be chasing after my dreams of being location independent and constant traveler. Here’s to a life less ordinary. Us weird ones need to stick together 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks, Adelina! It makes me so happy to see so many people commenting that they feel the same way. I guess we have a whole community of weird girls! 🙂

  13. Amy Lynne Hayes    

    Yep, yep and yep! I’m the same way – 30 years old, and not even the hint of a serious relationship. Forget kids! My next big adventure is a move to New Zealand later this year, so I guess we all have our priorities! You can definitely count me in with you as one of the “weird girls.” 🙂

  14. Ally    

    Haha I love this, I agree we get away with so many more of our weird quirks when we’re travelling as they chalk it down to us being “crazy australians”.

  15. Sabina @ Girl vs Globe    

    I LOVE this article. It’s so funny & I completely agree with teh sentiment. Being foreign gives you so much freedom! When I was in Beijing for a month there was NO WAY I was ever going to fit in so I made the best of sticking out like a sore thumb. I absolutely loved the freedom attached to it! 🙂

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